The goal of the Emma Coalition, co-founded by the National Restaurant Association, is to kick-start the discussion about how automation will affect the workforce—and how employers can adapt.
Employers, workers, policymakers, and think tanks have begun raising concerns that the push toward automation is going to leave a lot of people without a job—raising loads of ethical and societal questions in the process.
With these concerns in mind, a new coalition—co-founded by the National Restaurant Association along with the Littler Workplace Policy Institute and Prime Policy Group—is picking up momentum. The Emma Coalition will study what it calls “technology-induced displacement of employees,” or TIDE, and develop ideas for how employers and employees can prepare for and adapt to the effects of increasing automation.
“Government, industry, and policymakers all have an opportunity to examine TIDE issues today, and forge consensus around policies that can help us prepare in advance for the technology and workforce of the future,” said Shannon Meade, the National Restaurant Association’s vice president of public policy and the new coalition’s executive director, in comments to Restaurant Business.
The coalition is named for the granddaughter of one of the founders. “Failure to chart an implementable path forward could dramatically impact the lives and work of America’s Emmas,” the group says in a report describing its mission and goals [PDF].
In an interview with Robotics Business Review, Littler’s James Paretti said the coalition will work to involve many more stakeholders in the conversation.
“It’s an attempt to bring together folks from all sides of the aisle, across the spectrum on the labor side, on the employer side, really to focus on the challenges that are going to be coming out quickly by way of automation and artificial intelligence,” he said.
Paretti added that the restaurant industry is well positioned to identify the kinds of jobs that could be most endangered by automation, and then to find ways to retain workers for roles that will still need a human touch.
“We recognize that this is going to be a different analysis for every industry segment, and frankly, from employer to employer,” he said. “But if we could get together a template of how this is done, we can then push that out and get others to tailor it to their own specific needs.”
The new coalition is emerging at a time when data suggests that many employers haven’t started to grapple with how to adapt to automation. The most recent edition of Littler’s annual employer survey, released in May, found that 46 percent of respondents had not taken any action to prepare for the impact of technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics.